March 8 is International Women’s Day!
Not enough is done to recognise and acknowledge women for all their contributions to space exploration, the medical field, the arts and every other industry out there. As such, for this year’s International Women’s Day, we celebrate 4 amazing women who have made their mark on arts and culture in Singapore!
A prominent artist based in Singapore, Kumari Nahappan is well-versed in a range of visual genres, from inter-disciplinary to painting, sculpture and installations.
Some of her more famous works in Singapore include Saga for Changi Airport, Nutmeg & Mace for the ION Orchard, Pedas-Pedas for the National Museum and Pembungaan for OUE Bayfront (the largest bronze mural in Singapore that’s over 45m tall).
Hi Kumari, your work has made its way into Art Museums and gallery exhibitions all over the world. How would you describe your art creation process?
As a conceptual artist, I create works in a series and often exhibit them in the context of space and time to communicate a story.
These works often make their way to the institutions or countries to be exhibited, where they are framed by the context of the art-making process in the form of an installation.
What changes have you noticed in the art industry today, compared to when you first began?
As compared to 25 years ago, the industry is vibrant and evolving, especially in terms of contemporary art, which is excellent for growth.
With more art fairs and events in Singapore recently, such as the annual Affordable Art Fair that invites people to see art as available for everyone, not just art collectors, Singapore is going through a wonderful change in terms of the public’s receptiveness and embrace of art.
What do you hope to see in Singapore’s art scene’s future?
I hope the arts will be sustainable in the future. I hope to see art, life and the sciences integrating and running parallel to each other, playing important roles to enrich the life of the being.
You started your education at LASALLE College of the Arts as a mother of 4 at the age of 37. What would you say to ease the minds of potential artists pursuing a formal education, but are set back by fears of their age, marital circumstances and stage of life?
I started my career at 23 and worked for 14 years as a space planner while teaching at Institute Technology Mara in Shah Alam, Malaysia. When I moved to Singapore in 1990, I enrolled at LASALLE College to further my education in Fine Arts. My background helped me a great deal moving forward.
Fear of age and circumstances did not bother me as I went in with no plans, just an ‘open mind’ to learn.
A household name for most Singaporeans, Catherine Lim is one of the most well-known and well-read literary authors in Singapore.
Having written short stories, novels, poems and political commentary pieces over the past decades, she has now turned her focus to mentoring the youth as they too pursue a passion and future in writing.
Hi Catherine, you’ve been a published writer since 1978, and a well-known political critic since your essay, ‘PAP and the People: A Great Affective Divide’, in 1994. What would you say is your biggest, proudest accomplishments to date for both fiction writing and political commentary?
The two kinds of writing were completely different genres, with different objectives and readership: the fiction was creative expression of my personal experiences and observations of human behaviour, cast in the form of imaginary tales, while the commentaries were my criticisms of existing social and political policies in Singapore, based on factual information.
You can say that I regard both kinds of writing as ‘proud accomplishments’. I was very glad that I was able to share my interests, thoughts and reflections with Singaporean readers, and to know from feedback that they appreciated this sharing.
While your short stories and novels are a household name in Singapore, you’ve mentioned that you’ll be focusing on a new style of writing. Could you tell us more about that?
Recently, I seemed to have shown interest in a third kind of writing – the philosophical kind that deals with large existential issues such as God, religion, death, mortality, meaning, etc.
Actually these themes had always interested me and been the subject of much private introspection. Some months ago, I decided to put my thoughts together in a systematic way in a book, entitled ‘An Equal Joy: Reflections on God, Death and Belonging.’
It comprises a series of essays on topics as diverse as my Catholic background in my youth, my love and pursuit of scientific knowledge, my thoughts on death, suicide, the right to die, etc.
The book will be launched by Marshall Cavendish in March.
What changes have you noticed in Singapore’s literary scene today, compared to when you first began?
Firstly, there is now more support and encouragement from government organisations, such as grants for writers, the Singapore Writers Festival, and campaigns to promote local writing such as the Buy Singlit campaign initiated by NAC.
Secondly, I have noted the many new young writers on the literary scene, who have impressed me by their contributions, talent and enthusiasm. All these developments are very heartening indeed!
Any advice for local aspiring writers?
My advice to local aspiring writers is this: Go for it. Nurture your interest in writing. Don’t be too hard on yourselves and think that nobody will be interested in what you write.
If you write with authenticity, honesty and passion, even if they seem trivial or too personal to you, you will come up with the kind of writing that will interest people.
Remember all true artists go through periods of self-doubt which they never allow to dampen their passion for their art. Art is hard work – the axiom goes: ’10 per cent inspiration, and 90 per cent perspiration’!
Kirsten Tan is a New York based filmmaker whose works revolve heavily around humanity and off-beat humour.
Clinching the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting at Sundance Film Festival, her debut film POP AYE has set the stage for 32-year old Kirsten as Singapore’s up and rising filmmaker to watch.
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/199184287″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/199184287″>POP AYE Official Trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/ewfilms”>E&W Films</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Hi Kirsten, besides being the first Singaporean filmmaker and director to win that award, tell us about your biggest, proudest accomplishments to date!
I think my biggest, proudest accomplishment is really just staying on the path of filmmaking all through these many years even when it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
It takes years to cut your teeth on filmmaking and during that time, you do work that is low – or even no – paying for long stretches of time… [Filmmaking] demands a 100% full-time commitment and it really took resilience and, I suspect, a healthy dose of foolishness to keep on this path where there is no guarantee of any success at the end of it.
How long have you been in the filmmaking industry, and how did it all begin?
POP AYE is my first feature film but I’ve been working in film and making shorts for about twelve years now.
At NUS, I founded nu(STUDIOS) along with a group of friends and I worked mainly as a producer on my friend’s shorts. When I enrolled in Ngee Ann after NUS, I then moved into directing for the first time, and made my first short film titled ‘10 Minutes Later’. I’ve made 7 narrative shorts and 1 documentary short since then before embarking on my first feature film.
Dahdi was considered a relatively controversial film, touching on the Rohingya refugee crisis and Singapore’s stance on accepting refugees. What challenges did you have to overcome in order to bring Dahdi to life?
I wasn’t sure if I would get funding for the film from the Singapore Film Commission and had to crowd-fund the film via Indiegogo just to ensure we would have enough funds to make the film happen.
Interestingly, when we went to down to Pulau Ubin to scout for locations, we found the residents on Ubin suspicious of us because we were holding cameras.
The residents thought we were a part of the authorities or the media and were highly mistrustful of us initially since they’ve been hounded so much over time. It took a long time for us to gain their confidence.
What do you hope to see in Singapore’s film-making industry’s future?
Apart from POP AYE, local films are doing well on major film festivals – we had Apprentice and A Yellow Bird premiering at Cannes Film Festival last year.
Many talented young Singaporean filmmakers I know are working hard to get their debut feature screenplays ready for production. On a macroscopic level though, cinema as a whole can’t survive only on filmmakers so I hope that film and cultural literacy in Singapore will continue to grow as well… It’s only with the audience participation that film as a form and as an industry has a chance to thrive.
Any advice for local aspiring film-makers?
It may sound simple, but to any aspiring filmmaker reading this, I’d say – really, just focus on your work. Make sure you do everything and anything to get that script or film to its best possible potential. As a creator, your sole responsibility is to what you are creating.
Romanian-born, Singapore-based sculptor, Delia Prvacki, has been adding flair to the Singapore arts scene with her ceramic, bronze and tapestry artworks. Spaces such as Chijmes, the Esplanade and NUS Museum have featured her works, which are strongly influenced by Singapore’s nature-concrete dichotomy.
Hi Delia, tell us about your biggest, proudest accomplishments to date!
It is the story embedded in the trajectory of my life: moving from my native country, Romania, to ex-Yugoslavia to be with my husband, learning a new language, starting to build a successful career as an artist, all along being a mother and wife.
Then, 17 years later relocating to Singapore – an unknown space, new culture, [with new challenges like] having to learn the English language, establishing a new studio and practice while keeping the family values as my top priority.
How long have you been in the sculpting industry, and how did it all begin?
I started working with clay as a teenager, in 1967. I was already committed to the arts, having interest in poetry, piano, theatre, and fine arts, but disoriented, due to limitations imposed upon all forms of creativity by the dictatorial communist regime at that time.
I found a refuge in discovering the world of ancient traditional art, very rich in my native homeland. It also suited my rebellious side, compensating for my physical fragility and petite frame, to persist in a field that regularly was dominated by males.
As a Romanian-born, currently Singapore-citizenship holding artist, how would you say having lived in 2 drastically different cultures has influenced your art?
When I arrived in Singapore I [already had] a distinctive “style” and my body of work was already defined by my experimental and conceptual approach… My practice was within the ceramic medium and I was recognised for the merit of pushing the boundaries of the material, for its detachment from conventional presentation.
When I arrived in Singapore, I was fascinated with light, colour, vegetation, weather… that was an obvious change that inspired me instantly.
Once I began knowing and understanding the local heritage and culture, along with my admiration for the distinctive component of an ultra-modern, advanced metropolis, I found the whole new setting challenging and rejuvenating.
I became more interested in real problems facing modern societies, humanity, and mostly, I developed an awareness about the role that art plays in society.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I am preparing a solo exhibition with a large-scale installation at The Substation Gallery. It will run from 15-25 March.
This exhibition is special for me, since it marks 50 years of practice, and is a recollection of my first solo show in March 1970. It also has a personal emotional meaning, since my first solo exhibition in Singapore was in March 1994, in the same Gallery space at Substation.
You have a line of art-pieces called Dulcinea, which are 11 pieces of art featuring 6 “breast cups” representing a woman’s development from adolescent to adult. I love that it is such a celebration of women’s experiences, while simultaneously fighting back against the resistance towards public breastfeeding. What can you tell us about your thought process while creating Dulcinea?
I must say that my work was never “figurative” and the idea to develop an entire production in relation to this very explicit representation of the female body was justified by the idea, intention and the whole strategy on its implementation.
I intended to have it as a pure “feminine” discourse as well as a functional product meant to enhance the living space of families, while emanating a message of “maternity”, of eternal beauty.
[It also held] a role in aesthetic education and contributing to public awareness about a very sensitive, yet, perpetual dimension of our human existence – breastfeeding and women’s health.
Any advice for local aspiring sculptors?
I think local young artists are well-equipped with information, knowledge and conceptual platforms. However, they need to spend time in practising and making a body of work that is not meant primarily for sale, but to invest their energy and resources in experimentation.
Searching and thriving for original forms of expression is the key in establishing yourself as an authentic artist.
A big thank you to these amazing ladies for taking the time to share their thoughts and experiences with DiscoverSG!
From the first spark of inspiration that led to the start of their journeys as artists, to their position today as strong artistic influences in the Singaporean arts landscape, these 4 women have shown us that the pursuit of creating art is a beautiful process.
For more about the movers and shakers in the Singapore arts scene, follow A LIST SINGAPORE. A LIST SINGAPORE regularly features and interviews inspirational Singaporeans in the arts scene, such as pottery artist Kim Whye Kee, and film-maker K Rajagopal whose first feature film was chosen as a contender for last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
What’s more, it has the most informative list of arts and culture events happening all around Singapore.
A LIST SINGAPORE is easily available on both online and offline channels. You can follow them on their Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even their Youtube page, or get a hardcopy of their monthly magazine that is distributed at SMRT Stations island-wide.
We hope you were inspired by this article to explore and persevere in your own pursuit of artistic and personal expression. Happy International Women’s Day!